20 bizarre facts everyone should know about Manchester

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Do you know what Manchester’s original name meant or where you can find the unlikely birthplace of a meat-free diet?

You’ll know all these and more by the end of our guide to the city’s bizarre facts.

1. You can take a degree in “Mummy Studies”

Manchester is the only place in the world where you can take a degree in “Mummy Studies”. The University of Manchester has a long history in Egyptian mummy research, and there’s even a Mummy Tissue Bank – a substantial collection of samples, histological slides and wax mounted blocks of human tissue from a variety of ancient civilisations that practised mummification.

2. It’s the birthplace of vegetarianism

A tiny chapel in Salford was the British birthplace of the meat-free diet over 200 years ago, with the unlikely named Reverend William Cowherd preaching the moral virtues of a vegetarian diet. Cowherd’s followers – the Cowherdites – went on to form the Vegetarian Society. The name of the church? The Beefsteak Chapel.

3. Its Roman name meant “breast-shaped hill”

Manchester began when a wooden fort was built in Castlefield by the Roman army in about 79AD. The Romans called it Mamucium – thought to represent a Latinisation of an original Celtic name, meaning “breast-shaped hill”.

4. It doesn’t rain all the time

Despite what you may think, the county’s average annual rainfall is 806.6 millimetres compared to the UK average of 1125 millimetres. Its ill-conceived reputation most likely originated from a misleading climate map from 1926.

5. Wigan is home to the World Pie Eating Championships

The World Pie Eating Championships – held at Harry’s Bar in Wigan, Greater Manchester – sees contestants compete against the clock to eat a meat and potato pie in the fastest possible time. The contest has been running for over 20 years, and the current record is just 38 seconds.

6. The atom was first split here

Ernest Rutherford won the 1908 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on radiation – the youngest person ever to do so – and is widely credited with first “splitting the atom” in 1919. The University of Manchester named their physics lab The Rutherford Building in his honour.

19 ways Manchester changed the world

7. It houses the first free public library

The nation’s first free public library opened in Manchester in 1653, founded using money donated by wealthy Mancunian Henry Chetham. Housed in a building built in 1421, Chetham’s is the oldest public library in the English speaking world.

Our guide to Manchester for literature lovers

8. It’s where Rolls met Royce

Rolls Royce Midland Hotel

Photo: Rolls-Royce Media / Twitter

Rolls-Royce Limited was created over a famous lunch in Manchester in 1904, when car salesman Charles Rolls met engineer Henry Royce at The Midland Hotel. The Silver Ghost, launched in 1907, was a car of legendary smoothness that completed a 14,371 mile virtually non-stop run, earning it the title ‘the best car in the world’.

9. The first M&S store was opened here

Although originally started on a market stall in Leeds, when Michael Marks went into partnership with Tom Spencer in 1894 they opened their first shop on Stretford Road. In 1901, Marks & Spencer built a warehouse at Derby Street, Manchester, which became the Company’s first registered address and headquarters.

10. The first programmable computer was designed here

The Small-Scale Experimental Machine, known as SSEM, or the “Baby”, was designed and built at The University of Manchester in 1948. Created by Professor Tom Kilburn and Professor Sir Freddie Williams, the Baby weighed half a ton and took up most of a large room.

11. Manchester started the Industrial Revolution

The arrival of the Bridgewater Canal in Castlefield in July 1761 marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Dubbed “Cottonopolis”, Manchester became a centre for the textile industry in the 19th century.

12. The Pasty Barm is a real thing

Pasty barm Wikipedia by Chazzquire

Photo: Chazzquire / Wikipedia / Commons

Native to Bolton, the pasty barm consists of a buttered barm (or barm cake, bap, cob or bun depending on where in the North you’re from – but let’s not get into that here), with a meat and potato pasty as the filling. Yes, that’s a carb-heavy delicacy of a pasty inside a buttered bread roll.

10 foodie specialities that Manchester does best

13. The Curry Mile isn’t a mile

Once thought to contain the largest concentration of South Asian restaurants outside the Indian subcontinent, the Curry Mile isn’t actually a mile long – it’s actually just over half a mile. That’s still a lot of restaurants, though.

10 essential stops on Manchester’s Curry Mile

14. UoM boasts 25 Nobel prize winners

The University of Manchester boasts 25 Nobel Prize winners amongst former and current staff and students – the third highest after Oxford and Cambridge – and is part of the prestigious Russell Group.

15. The world’s first passenger railway

When the Liverpool & Manchester Railway opened in 1830 it became the world’s first purpose-built passenger railway, in which all services were hauled by timetabled steam locomotives.

16. You can ski on real snow

Home to the UK’s longest indoor skiing and indoor snowboarding slope, Chill Factore in Trafford boasts a 180m long real snow slope.

17. It’s the home of the Black Pudding

Black Puddings first arrived in the UK via European monks, who first visited Yorkshire and then crossed over the Pennines to Lancashire where “bloodwurst” became known as “Black Pudding”. Bury, in Greater Manchester, is the undisputed home of the Black Pudding – which was recently declared a “superfood”. Yes, really.

18. Danger Mouse was born in Chorlton

Danger Mouse – which apparently drew a record 21 million viewers in 1983 – was created by Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall, with the Cosgrove Hall Films studio based in Chorlton. It is now Cosgrove Hall Court retirement flats.

19. It’s where your breakfast is from

Since 1938, the Kellogg’s factory in Manchester has been making the cereals families enjoy, like Crunchy Nut, Coco Pops, Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes.

20. It’s the best city in the UK. Fact.

Manchester House night view c Tobias Alexander

Photo: Tobias Alexander

Manchester was voted the best UK city to live in in The Global Liveability Survey 2015, beating London for the second year running. Manchester was the highest ranking UK city, coming in at 46th from a list of 140 cities.

Do you know any more fascinating facts about Manchester? Let us know via Twitter or Facebook.

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Main image: Tobias Alexander